It's week 2 of our work-study student posts. Read up on the Tyra show, student list serve exchanges, and race:
The other day I was watching an old episode of Tyra. The topic of the show was on the GLBTQ community and the conflicts that exist within this group. On the show there was the stereotype a: “masculine” gay male, a “feminine” gay male, “lipstick” lesbian, “butch” lesbian, drag queen, transgender, and bisexual male. Tyra held a social experiment where they had to create the “Gay Kingdom”. They were given the assignment of picking the following roles: King, Queen, Villain, Concubine, Jester, Pauper, and Cook. It was interesting to observe how the participants actually assigned the roles. Part of me believed social and gender “norms” would not be taken into consideration. However, in my experience we live in a society where it seems one cannot escape social norms. The participants assigned:
"Masculine” gay male = King
“Lipstick” lesbian = Queen
“Butch” lesbian = Villain
Transgendered Female = Concubine
Drag Queen = Jester
Bisexual male = Pauper
“Feminine” gay male = Cook
In order to come to many of these decisions, people were placed by stereotypes. I found this to be extremely disappointing. I was witnessing firsthand how negatively people of the same community perceived each other. One of the participants referred to herself as, “straight lesbian” because she loved to wear dresses, heels, make up, and fool males into thinking she was heterosexual. The transgendered female detached herself form the GLBTQ community saying she is a “straight women” and not a part of ‘that’ community. The “masculine” gay male referred to the gay community as heavy into drugs. These are all the stereotypes I hear from friends and society. I was surprised to see people who belong to the GLBTQ community also experienced internalized oppression.
Internalized oppression is when an individual in an oppressed group internalizes all the external messages about their group and acts on it. For example, the standard of beauty for women in America is white, blonde haired and blue eyed. We see this in the media, in movies, in advertising. An Asian woman who is bombarded with these messages may experience internalized oppression and act out by dying her jet black hair blonde or by covering her dark brown eyes with light colored contacts. A more extreme example is when the “norm” is big round eyes Asian women get surgery on their eyes to make them appear more round.
Internalized oppression was happening with the people on Tyra because they assigned each other to stereotypical roles. Roles in which society (and themselves) prescribed each other. This has also been a personal experience for me in the Black community.
Last week, an email exchange through the student listserv was started by a student about a certain professor on campus. First, this was highly inappropriate, and should not have been conducted in the manner that it was. It was addressed in a matter that is not constructive, and it should not have been done in such a public fashion. Now getting to the actual content of the email, no one should ever be criticized for the accent in which they speak. There are all different types of accents and depending on who is around you and where you are, doesn’t everyone have an accent? Who is to say that, for example, someone who lives in Boston and comes from a Spanish speaking country is the one with the accent? Don’t Bostonians equally have an accent?
Even if a professor has an “accent,” it isn’t something that would necessarily impair learning. Good professors have outlined notes (which are given before class to review) and also offer her time to meet with students individually if they do not understand the material in class. What is most disturbing is that having an accent is equated with not speaking English and not speaking English is equated as a reason to have to “get out of America.” Such a statement is one that only displays the ignorance that is still existent within our society. If that were the case, the United States would lose so many of its inhabitants. Both of my grandmothers for example, can barely speak English. To say that they have to leave the country based on this is not only ignorant, but just plain stupid. Everyone here currently is either an immigrant themselves, or descended from an immigrant. Of all those immigrants, a good amount of them came over without knowing how to speak English. Our country would not be what it is today if it weren’t for the opportunity to come and learn here. We will never make any progress in society if we continue to use language as a weapon for who belongs and who does not.
What if color was just another characteristic of humans, just like different colored hair, or eyes? Do you think there would still be prejudices? And if there were, would they be enough to cause hate? I mean have you ever heard someone say, “I hate that person because they have green eyes,” or “I hate that person because they have blonde hair?” But we do hear things like, “I don’t like to mix with that kind,” referring to people of color. But what if race wasn’t in the picture? Would people still develop hatred for people who are different? Would we hear those comments about a person’s eye color or hair color?
Unfortunately, I think the answer is yes. People would still find a means of discrimination, whether it’s hair color, eye color, skin color, hair texture, or nose size. I say this because race itself was a concept developed by the white men in the 18th century just before slavery. It was a way to “prove” the inferiority of the people they were enslaving. So the concept of judging someone based on their skin color became institutionalized by people! There is no biological rhyme or reason to it. Those same white men could have said all people with blue eyes are to become slaves and we would not have conflicts because of the color of our skin, but the color of our eyes. So if race hadn’t been developed when it was, it would only be a matter of time before someone conceptualized discriminating people based on something else, like eye color for example.
Speaking of eye color, there is a video on Youtube that proves that people can start disliking someone based on what people in power say.
This video is of a third grade teacher (who is the “person in power”) that told her students that people with blue eyes are better than people with brown eyes, and then the next day changes that and says that people with brown eyes are better. The reactions of the students are somewhat disturbing and it shows that you can pick something arbitrary like eye color and are told to treat people with different eye colors a certain way, people will do what they are told. This shows that prejudices can develop from even the most insignificant differences among the human race. Racism is a very serious thing and is not arbitrary, but if you think about it, it is ridiculous that racism exists.